x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Moscow temporising in Syria

Russia knows Bashar Al Assad will go. But it is in no hurry, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics today: Egypt's judges and the Gulf and the Brotherhood.

Moscow fears the sudden collapse of Al Assad's regime and is trying to buy him more time

In appearance, the Russians didn't withdraw their support for the regime in Syria, and the regime didn't back away from the military solution, said columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"The Russians are concerned that any announcement of them consenting to a political solution that expressly excludes President Bashar Al Assad would lead to an abrupt collapse of the regime. For this reason, the Geneva conference on Syria was an acknowledgement of Mr Al Assad's end without explicitly saying it, yet," opined the writer.

But, anyway, the ideas that were put forth in Geneva, and the attempt to breathe life into Kofi Annan's six-point plan, are of no value now since the rebels aren't about to halt their advance and the regime has no alternative but to resort to the military solution.

In Geneva, world powers acknowledged the end of the Syrian regime and Moscow had to agree to the idea of searching for an alternative solution.

"It would have to be a temporary solution, such as a joint government, which would allow Mr Al Assad to move out of the presidential palace.

"This is an old proposition that Iran and Russia came up with last year in an effort to divide the opposition by allowing them to participate in the government under Mr Al Assad as president. Now they are calling for a joint government that includes some of the regime figures. All this in an attempt to buy him more time to sort out his affairs," said the writer.

But, the course of the battle on the ground has changed against the regime. Its forces are increasingly losing their grip on most parts of the country. The rebels have succeeded in making headway and are taking the upper hand. Thousands of soldiers are defecting and joining the ranks of the rebels.

Mr Al Assad's allies can't afford to announce their approval of a project to oust him. It would create panic and chaos in his government.

Their preference is to make arrangements with the rebels and their allies first, but perhaps it is too late for that now.

As for the revolution's allies, they have so far shown reticence to jump into the unknown once Mr Al Assad is out.

They are ready to support a real, pragmatic solution that purges the government of Mr Al Assad and all of his subordinates and transfers power to the opposition under specific terms that guarantee the sovereignty and unity of Syria.

"Moscow is no longer the issue. The issue now is Mr Al Assad himself; he will sabotage the solution. He has known since the beginning of this year that he has lost the battle and this is why he wants to create a civil war to give him some sort of power in some part of Syria, in the Alawite regions," concluded the writer.

What the Gulf wants from the Brotherhood

The Gulf states do not want Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to come crawling to them asking for help, nor for him to turn his back on them completely, wrote Saudi commentator Abdullah Nasser Al Otaibi in the London-based Al Hayat.

"The gulf wants Egypt's president to be in the moderate middle way," he said. "An equal in the Arab balance of power, neither a Nasserist with expansionist ambitions … nor too reclusive and self-centered to the detriment of Arab unity."

The Gulf's political and civil forces must not persist in their categorical refusal of the Brotherhood ruling Egypt, he added.

The Gulf should admit Mr Morsi's victory and seeks to start a new era with no preconceptions. It is crucial for them to understand that "the Brotherhood in power is different from the one in opposition. The weapons once used in opposition cannot be used now while in office".

There are four things the Gulf states want from the Brotherhood. First, "we do not want them to side with Iran against us, but we cannot demand that they sever relations with it completely while we are having diplomatic and business ties with Iran ourselves".

Second, the Brotherhood must not interfere in the Gulf's affairs. Next, the Gulf wants to make sure the desire to revive the Ottoman Caliphate does not converge with the Brotherhood's ambitions. And last, they should not favour one Palestinian faction over another.

Judiciary is the major political force in Egypt

It has become clear that the principal political player in Egypt following Hosni Mubarak's overthrow is the judiciary, argued Abdelilah Belqziz in an opinion article in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"The part the judicial institution has played at this critical period of Egyptian history is invaluable," the writer observed.

Had Egypt's judiciary not stepped in to defend the rule of law and fair elections, and to decide on disagreements between various forces, Egypt would not have turned the corner.

In fact, while one cannot venture to say that Egypt is a state of institutions, one can say confidently that "the judicial institution is the only unbroken organ in the state, as it was even under the old regime which sought to undercut its independence but to no avail".

The judiciary is the cornerstone of any state ruled by law and institutions, which is "why we should think well of the Egyptian judiciary that promises a major contribution into bringing political stability to the country".

The accusations pointed at Egypt's judiciary are unfortunate, and have exceeded acceptable bounds. For the judiciary to step in to decide on political disputes is a healthy phenomenon. This is the only guarantee to avert a clash of wills on the streets, the writer noted.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk